The Life that Swings

Recording careers and world tours long behind them, two senior citizen jazz musicians find themselves still making music at unlikely venues.

By | April 9, 2013

Nearly every day for the past thirty years, Maurice McIntyre has taken the subway from his studio apartment on St. Ann’s Avenue in the South Bronx to play his saxophone on the Grand Central and Union Square train platforms. On good days, his saxophone case fills with $40 to $60 in small bills and loose change. At seventy-seven years old, Maurice hasn’t even entertained the thought of not working.

“I’ll work till I die,” said Maurice, who suffered a heart attack three weeks ago at his home and has been hospitalized since.

At the height of his career in the 1960s and ‘70s, Maurice led his own band, recorded and toured internationally. Then jazz clubs began closing their doors and opportunities disappeared with them.

“Musicians don’t have the option of retiring,” says Marianne Pillsbury, communications and musician programs manager for Jazz Foundation of America, a nonprofit that provides relief and assistance to jazz and blues musicians. “The single biggest issue musicians everywhere face is finding work. Finding the next gig.”

In an average year, the Jazz Foundation of America helps around seven hundred musicians and their families by providing or connecting them with services, ranging from crisis relief to social, medical and legal resources. It also gives musicians, like sixty-nine-year-old piano player Roy Meriwether, a weekly venue to jam with other musicians.


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